Firefox Facts

I just stumbled upon the site Firefox Facts and on the very first post discovered something pretty cool that I didn’t know existed.  You can turn on Firefox’s spell checker on any website to catch spelling errors.  Great tool if you suck at spelling like me or if you are asked to proof read web pages.   Here is how to do it from the Firefox Facts post Use Firefox’s Spellchecker Anywhere!:

The first step to take would be to bookmark this link (or drag and drop it onto your bookmarks toolbar).

+ spell check

When the bookmarklet is clicked, Firefox will turn on the built in spellchecker and highlight any misspelled words that are on the page you are currently browsing.

Give it a try, just pick any post on this site as I am sure there are errors all over it.

It is worth check out the Firefox Facts site, it has lots of other great tips and tricks.

Run Firefox Run

Firefox Updated to Version 3.5 today.  As always it takes a few weeks for add-ons to be updated to work with the new version.  So if you are a heavy add-on or theme user then you might want to wait a week or two.

First impressions is that things seems snappier.  I have nothing to back this up but my usual websites seem to load faster.

A new feature that will be interesting to watch is the support for HTML5 <video> and <audio> tags.  This allows better embedding in sites.  The question will be if they get adopted by the web community.  The demo on the firefox site was pretty smooth.

Another feature that has been in Safaria and other browsers in a Private Browsing Mode (nicknamed “porn mode” by many).  The idea is not record anything about the sites you are visiting (cookies, history, etc.).

Themeing Firefox and Thunderbird

In past posts I have covered add-ons for both Firefox and Thunderbird, here I want to tell you about themes.  Now themes may not seem as useful as add-ons to you but they do have an important purpose. They do more then just change colours and icons within the program. They allow you to blend the program into the rest of your computer environment.  For most spending any time selecting a theme may seem like a waste of time, but for me it is as important as making changes in my physical environment around me.

Let me explain by giving you the example of what I use for a Firefox and Thunderbird theme.  The theme I use for both is called PitchDark.  As the name would suggest the theme is dark, in other words instead of being brightly coloured with lots of white areas the theme changes most of the colours to darkgreys, browns and black.  Now as it turns out this is not an easy thing to do.  There are many dark themes that fail to maintain readability when recasting the colours.

So why would I choose a dark theme? Well I spend too much time in front of a computer, 8+ hours at work and then a few hours each evening at home.  For me staring all day at a computer screen is pretty painful on the eyes.  Over the years I have found that if I make the background of most my programs black then my eye strain seems to be greatly reduced.  For my most often used programs I try find a theme that is dark or some settings that allow me to adjust the colours to reduce the glaring white areas.

Another reason to theme and make that theme match the rest of your environment is a bit more subversive. I imagine most users of Thunderbird or Firefox could identify them running on a computer screen from some distance. What they recognize is the standard theme.  Change the theme and this will trick a few people.  Select a theme that will make the program look like most of the other programs you are running and it becomes a bit of a challenge.  Maybe this is desirable in a work environment where they really are not paying you to surf the web or read personal emails.

So if you spend a fair amount of time in front of a computer I suggest spending the time at getting themes that you like to look at.  For Firefox and Thunderbird you can start at the Mozilla theme site.

Picking a good password

Security and privacy of information on the Internet is all over the news these days.  Yet I am still amazed at how little the general public knows about selecting a good password.  So if you have an online email account (Google, Hotmail) or a social networking page (Facebook, MySpace) then please take a moment to look at the list of things you should do to make a secure password.

  • First off please don’t use your middle name, street name, city, favourite spot, dog, cat, kids, etc.  This are easy for people you know to guess.  Some of the informaiton can also be found online, like you address on Canada411.
  • A common trick is to pick a phrase you like and use the first letter of each work to create a password.  For example, from the movie Austin Powers “Why must I be surrounded by frickin’ idiots“, would give you the password WmIbsfi.
  • Mix up the cases.  Notice in the example above I used a capital “W” and “I” in the password.
  • Add some number to the beginning or end.  Like your weight or shoe size.  Now the example password is  WmIbsfi11.
  • Finally if the site you are using lets you add one or two special characters in.  You can do this by adding something at the end or beginning.  Better yet replace certain letters with a special character.  For example make an “s” a “$” and an “a” a “@”,  the example password is now WmIb$fi11.

So simple and now you have something that would be next to impossible to guess.

I know remembering several passwords can be a tax so people will often have a favourite that they use for everything.  Can I at least suggest creating two good passwords.  Use one for all your ultra secure needs like banking and Paypal, basically anything that will cost you money or severe headache if someone gets into it.  Use the other for all your fun stuff like Facebook or Hotmail.  This way you aren’t likely to accidently give some web page access to your money.

Final thing (I have been told I write too much), if you are saving passwords on your home machine via Firefox then please go enable the Master Password.  It will stop someone who uses you machine from being able to login to your accounts.  To set up a Master Password goto Tools->Options… then in the pop up window pick Security tab.  Hit the checkbox for Use a master password.  It will prompt you to enter a Master Password.  Make it a good one!  Now everytime you first start your browser up and go to a site for which you have a saved password then it will prompt you for your Master Password.  Just remember that if you then leave your computer with the browser running anyone can access to saved password sites.

Firefox 3 is here

Well sadly this post should have been made several weeks back, but summer is here in Canada which means sitting in front of a computer is the last thing on my mind.

So if you missed it Firefox 3 is out.  If you are running Firefox 2 at the moment, check Help->About Mozilla Firefox, then you need to upgrade.  Sorry this is not something that Firefox will do on its own.  So go here to get the latest version.

There are many new features in version 3 that I am sure you will like.  By far my favourite has been the changes to the URL bar, now called the Smart Location Bar.  This is the bar that displays the current sites URL.

In the past you could use the URL bar to jump to a page that you had already been to by starting to enter the sites URL.  This was ok but I rarely used it and often it was hard to remember the sites URL, even with the browser trying to guess based on what you had entered.

Well in version 3 the URL bar has become my most oftened used interface to find a site.  I rarley have to got to my bookmarks or into my history to find my most often used sites.  Instead of matching on the URL of the site the locaiton bar matches on the page title and other meta information from the site.  So you type “news” and up comes the list of all the news sites you visit.  It also learns by what in the list you click on.  Your most common choices will be at the top of the list.  Very cool.

Other features to try:

  • One click bookmarking just click the star on the end of the location bar.  Fast!
  • You can also tag your bookmarks to make finding them in the location bar faster.
  • Smart bookmark folders, if you are familiar with iTunes Smart Playlists then this is the same idea, by default the new version has Most Visited as an example.

There are a lot more but that should get you started.  I am looking forward to Thunderbird 3!